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Tourism in Iran

Tourism in Iran

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Tourism attracted 2.3 million people to Iran in 2009. Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 plans to have 20 million tourists annually by 2015 (including domestic tourism).

The landscape of Iran
Geography of Iran
Iran is located in southwest Asia and borders the Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea.Its mountains have helped to shape both the political and the economic history of the country for several centuries. The mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and...

 is diverse, providing a range of activities from hiking and skiing in the Alborz
Alborz
Alborz , also written as Alburz, Elburz or Elborz, is a mountain range in northern Iran stretching from the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the northwest to the southern end of the Caspian Sea, and ending in the east at the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan...

 mountains, to beach holidays by the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. Over the next five years a number of tourism-friendly infrastructure projects will be undertaken on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, which at present attracts around 1m visitors per year, the majority of whom are Iranian
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

. In general, Iranians
Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples are an Indo-European ethnic-linguistic group, consisting of the speakers of Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family, as such forming a branch of Indo-European-speaking peoples...

 are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures.

Before the Iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 and the subsequent Iran–Iraq War, tourism was characterized by significant numbers of visitors travelling to Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 for its diverse attractions, boasting cultural splendours
Culture of Iran
To best understand Iran, Afghanistan, their related societies and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of their culture. It is in the study of this area where the Persian identity optimally expresses itself...

 and a diverse and beautiful landscape suitable for a range of activities. Tourism declined dramatically during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s.

Since the Iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 in 1979, the majority of visitors to Iran have been religious pilgrims and businesspeople. Official figures do not distinguish between those travelling to Iran for business and those coming for pleasure, and they also include a large number of diaspora Iranians
Iranian citizens abroad
The term Iranians abroad or Iranian diaspora refers to the Iranian people born in Iran but living outside of Iran with their children.As of 2010, there are an estimated four to five million Iranians living abroad, mostly in North America, Europe, Persian Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and the...

 returning to visit their families in Iran or making pilgrimages to holy Shia sites
Holiest sites in Islam (Shia)
In addition to the three Mosques accepted by all Muslims as holy sites, Shī'ah Muslims consider sites associated with Muhammad, his family members and descendants , their companions, and the Prophets as holy places...

 near Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

 and elsewhere. Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. Despite the
international tensions
Diplomatic tensions between Iran and the United States
This article is about the current international tensions between Iran and other countries, especially the United States and Israel.Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iran has had some difficult relations with Western countries, especially the United States...

, the government continues to project strong rises in visitor numbers and tourism revenue over the forecast period, and to talk of projects to build an additional 100 hotels, for example, to expand its currently limited stock.

Visitors




The most up-to-date figures from the World Tourism Organisation for the origin of visitors to Iran show that building up visitors from the Islamic and wider Asian world will have to start from a low base. Around three-quarters of those entering Iran in 1999 came from Europe. Of those, as might be expected, only a minority were from western European countries.

According to Iranian officials, in a change of trend, about 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 in 2004; most came from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, while a small share (about 10%) came from North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 including Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

. The most popular tourist destinations are Esfahan, Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

, and Shiraz
Shiraz
Shiraz may refer to:* Shiraz, Iran, a city in Iran* Shiraz County, an administrative subdivision of Iran* Vosketap, Armenia, formerly called ShirazPeople:* Hovhannes Shiraz, Armenian poet* Ara Shiraz, Armenian sculptor...

. There is undoubtedly great scope for increased visitors from the Islamic world, and possibly also from non-Muslim countries with which Iran is developing business and political links, such as China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

.

The majority of the 300,000 tourist visas granted in 2003 were obtained by Asian Muslims, who presumably intended to visit important pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 sites in Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

 and Qom
Qom
Qom is a city in Iran. It lies by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River....

. Several organized tours from Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, UK and other Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an countries come to Iran annually to visit archaeological sites and monuments.

From 2004, the country experienced a 100-percent growth in foreign tourist arrivals until mid-2008 when the number of foreign arrivals surged up to 2.5 million. Specially, there has been an enormous increase in the number of German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 tourists traveling to Iran in 2008.

The World Travel and Tourism Council
World Travel and Tourism Council
The World Travel & Tourism Council was conceptualized in the early 1980s when a group of CEOs came to the realization that although Travel & Tourism was the largest service industry in the world and the biggest provider of jobs, nobody knew it...

 claims that business and personal tourism rose by 11.3% and 4.6%, respectively, in real terms in 2007, with the growth in personal tourism only modestly below that of the preceding year.

About 2.3 million tourists have visited Iran in 2009 according to Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization. About 70,000 of the tourists were from Turkey, 3,000 from Germany, and 3,000 from China, with the rest being from other countries.

Demand and supply (Source: EIU
Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit is part of the Economist Group.It is a research and advisory company providing country, industry and management analysis worldwide and incorporates the former Business International Corporation, a U.S. company acquired by the parent organization in 1986...

)
2004 2005 2006 est.
International tourism, arrivals ('000) 1,656 1,720 1,769
International tourism, receipts (US$ m) 917 971 1,022

Visa requirement


In general, Iran has tried to improve its complex and time-consuming visa application process and has begun to issue week-long visas for the nationals of 68 countries at airports. An online hotel reservation system has been developed. Iran will equip all airports with electronic visa
Visa (document)
A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport...

 facilities by February 2009 to issue online entry permits to foreign nationals.

Iran has 15 road border crossings connecting it with Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Rail lines from Turkey and Turkmenistan can also be used to enter Iran. About 70% of visitors arrived by land in 2002, about 29% by air and less than 1% by sea. The price of internal flights is heavily subsidised, deterring competition and hampering profitability. In April 2005 the Imam Khomeini International Airport
Imam Khomeini International Airport
Imam Khomeini International Airport is located in Ahmadabad, Iran. The airport is located about southwest of the city near the localities of Robat-Karim and Eslamshahr. It was designed to replace Mehrabad International Airport, which is in the west of the city, now inside the city boundaries...

 was reopened under the management of a consortium of four local airlines—Mahan Air
Mahan Air
Mahan Airlines, doing business as Mahan Air, is a private airline based in the Mahan Air Tower in Tehran, Iran. It operates scheduled domestic services and international flights to the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe...

, Aseman, Caspian Air and Kish Air
Kish Air
Kish Air is an airline based in Tehran, Iran. It operates international, domestic and charter services as a scheduled carrier. Its main base is Mehrabad Airport, Tehran.-History:...

—although no formal contract appeared to have been awarded.

Infrastructure and the economy



In the early 2000s the industry still faced serious limitations in infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

, communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

s, regulatory norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

, and personnel training
Training
The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of...

. In late 2003 there were about 640 hotels in Iran and around 63,000 beds.

In FY 2003 Iran had about 69,000 restaurants and 6,000 hotels and other lodging places; about 80 percent of these establishments were in urban areas. Some 875 restaurants and hotels were publicly managed by cooperatives and government organizations. More than 95 percent of restaurants and hotels had fewer than five employees, and only 38 had more than 100 employees. In FY 2002 this sector employed more than 166,000 people, 42,000 of whom worked in places of lodging. Of the 56,618 beds in all hotels, about half were located in three- to five-star hotels.

In recent years, 235 hotels, hotel apartments, motels and guesthouses have become operational nationwide. As at 2010, 400 hotels and 200 hotel apartments are under construction nationwide. Some 66 percent of these projects are underway in the proviances of Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

, Gilan, Mazandaran, Razavi Khorasan and Isfahan.

Organization of Cultural Heritage and Tourism


Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization is responsible for the establishment, development and operation of tourism facilities in Iran, planning for the repair or extension of tourism facilities through direct investment or providing loans to the private sector or entering into partnership with the private sector, issuing licenses and supervising the establishment and administration of hotels and restaurants and travel agencies and qualification and rating of these units. Investment in Iran's free trade zones are exempt from taxes for up to 20 years.

Area considered for further expansion in the tourism sector in Iran are eco tourism, coastlines
Geography of Iran
Iran is located in southwest Asia and borders the Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea.Its mountains have helped to shape both the political and the economic history of the country for several centuries. The mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and...

, restoration
Construction in Iran
In recent years, the construction industry of Iran has been thriving due to an increase in national and international investment to the extent that it is now the largest in the Middle East region...

 of historical relics
History of Iran
The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...

, handicraft townships
Iranian art
Persian arts, or Iranian arts is one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.-The Persian rug:...

, and health tourism (e.g. water therapy).

Officials state that Iran has in recent years earned about US$1bn a year from tourism. Iran currently ranks 68th in tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 revenues worldwide. Iran with attractive natural and historical sites is rated among the "10 most touristic countries" in the world. Close to 1.8% of national employment is generated in the tourism sector which is slated to increase to 10% in the next five years. Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.

Iran's '20-Year Vision' document projects investment of over $32 billion in the country's tourism sector. In order to encourage domestic and foreign direct investment in this sector
Foreign Direct Investment in Iran
Foreign direct investment in Iran has been hindered by unfavorable or complex operating requirements and by international sanctions, although in the early 2000s the Iranian government liberalized investment regulations. Iran ranks 62nd in the World Economic Forum's 2011 analysis of the global...

, the 50 per cent tax exemption previously granted to tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 enterprises has been extended to include five-star hotels. Tariffs for utilities comply with industrial ones.

Outward tourism



Demand and supply (Source: EIU
Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit is part of the Economist Group.It is a research and advisory company providing country, industry and management analysis worldwide and incorporates the former Business International Corporation, a U.S. company acquired by the parent organization in 1986...

)
2004 2005 2006 est.
International tourism, departures ('000) 3,478 3,648 3,986
International tourism, expenditure (US$ m) 4,353 1,380 1,579


Traditionally, only a small number of wealthy Iranian tourists travelled abroad, and the majority of the trips were business departures, mostly to neighbouring states in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and the wider Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 (1 mil. each year), Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 (~1 mil.). Although this is likely to continue to characterise much Iranian travel abroad, since the change of regime in Iraq in 2003, Iranians from all walks of life have visited their western neighbour. In addition, a large proportion of Iranians travelling abroad are likely to be visiting family
Iranian citizens abroad
The term Iranians abroad or Iranian diaspora refers to the Iranian people born in Iran but living outside of Iran with their children.As of 2010, there are an estimated four to five million Iranians living abroad, mostly in North America, Europe, Persian Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and the...

, especially in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the US and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 (~1 mil.). Because the Iranian rial is overvalued, the Iranian government is subsidizing its travellers abroad.

See also



  • History of Iran
    History of Iran
    The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from the Danube River in the west to the Indus River and Jaxartes in the east and from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea, and Aral Sea in the north to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and Egypt...

  • Culture of Iran
    Culture of Iran
    To best understand Iran, Afghanistan, their related societies and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of their culture. It is in the study of this area where the Persian identity optimally expresses itself...

  • Iranian art
    Iranian art
    Persian arts, or Iranian arts is one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.-The Persian rug:...

  • Geography of Iran
    Geography of Iran
    Iran is located in southwest Asia and borders the Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea.Its mountains have helped to shape both the political and the economic history of the country for several centuries. The mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and...

  • Tehran
    Tehran
    Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

     (Capital city)
  • Kish Island
  • Iran Air
    Iran Air
    Iran Air , formally Airline of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the flag carrier airline of Iran, operating services to 60 destinations, 35 international and 25 domestic. The cargo fleet operates services to 20 scheduled and 5 charter destinations...

     (national airline)
  • Homa Hotel Group
    Homa Hotel Group
    Homa Hotel Group is a subsidiary company of Iran Air, which owns a chain of five-star and luxury hotels in major cities of Iran. These Homa hotels are located in Tehran, Shiraz, Bandar Abbas and Mashad...

  • Persepolis
    Persepolis
    Perspolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire . Persepolis is situated northeast of the modern city of Shiraz in the Fars Province of modern Iran. In contemporary Persian, the site is known as Takht-e Jamshid...

  • Sport in Iran
    Sport in Iran
    Many sports are practiced in Iran, both traditional and modern. Tehran, for example, was the first city in the Middle East to host the Asian Games in 1974, and continues to host and participate in major international sporting events to this day...

  • Iranian cuisine
    Iranian cuisine
    Iranian cuisine is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to its region.It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelo kabab , khoresht Iranian cuisine is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to...

  • International rankings of Iran
  • United Nations World Tourism Organization
  • Visitor attractions in Iran


Further reading


External links

- Many practical information for travelers to Iran
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